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Morrow police chief's pay stripped after investigation

Jeff Baker remains on administrative leave

Embattled Morrow Police Chief Jeff Baker was stripped of his pay, at least temporarily, on Wednesday, following the conclusion of a city investigation into his recent arrest on driving under the influence charges, according to a top city official.

Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady said his investigation into Baker's arrest on Nov. 16, confirmed at least some of the allegations detailed against the police chief in a Clayton County incident report. The investigation was designed to determine whether the police chief's actions violated any city policies.

A Morrow police officer allegedly discovered open containers of alcohol on the floorboard of Baker's city-owned car during the incident.

Eady said he has changed Baker's employment status to "administrative leave without pay" for the time being, in part because of the outcome of the investigation. Baker has been on administrative leave, but he was being paid until this week.

Eady said he had been scheduled to meet with Baker on Tuesday, to discuss the investigation results, but the police chief asked him to reschedule because of an unspecified personal matter.

"I've done the investigation, and was ready to meet with him to discuss the results this week, but he canceled, so I don't think taxpayers need to be paying his salary at this time," Eady said.

Eady said he is scheduled to meet with Baker, concerning the investigation results, on Dec. 6. Meanwhile, Baker's future employment status remains uncertain.

The city manager would not say whether Baker will be fired. He said he wanted to discuss the investigation with the chief before he spoke in depth, and on the record, with reporters about the issue. "I'm not going to try this in the media," Eady said. "I want to speak with Jeff, in person, before I comment too much more on this."

A reporter went by Baker's home late Wednesday, but no one appeared to be home. Mayor Jim Millirons also could not be reached for comment.

Morrow Police Capt. Greg Tatroe has been acting as the department's interim police chief since Baker was placed on administrative leave.

Baker was allegedly asleep at the steering wheel of his vehicle, at the intersection of Ga. Hwy. 54, and Southlake Parkway, in Morrow, on the evening of Nov. 16, when he was approached by one of his own officers, according to police reports from his arrest.

The officer reported the police chief's eyes were red and glassy, his speech was slurred, and the smell of alcohol was present. He also reported that Baker woke up when the lights on the officer's car were activated, but had trouble opening his car windows.

Baker also allegedly put his car in reverse, after he was asked to move the vehicle to the side of the road, and then sped off to the Morrow Police Department headquarters, according to the incident report. A Clayton County police officer was then called in to respond to the incident, finding Baker smoking a cigarette at the headquarters.

The officer also found several unfinished cans of beer in the chief's car, and an ice chest, with two bottles of an alcoholic beverage in it.

Baker reportedly refused to submit to a state-administered chemical test for blood alcohol content, opening the possibility that he could lose his driving privileges for at least a year.

Although Eady has declined to specify — on the record — what city personnel policy violations he determined Baker has committed, the city does have a policy in place that forbids employees from having alcoholic beverages in city-owned vehicles.

Baker has been charged with DUI, running a red light, impeding traffic, open container, driving too fast for conditions, improper lane change and failure to obey a person directing traffic. A Clayton County Magistrate Court judge has bound the charges over to Clayton County State Court, according to online court records.

Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley said this week that she is gathering evidence to build a case, indicating that she could formally file accusations against the police chief, in State Court, as soon as January.

— Staff Writer Kathy Jefcoats contributed to this article